Military Review

The largest cannons in history. 520-mm railway howitzer Obusier de 520 modele 1916


520-mm railway howitzer Obusier de 520 modele 1916

By the time the First World War broke out, many countries underestimated heavy artillery, this was true for all Entente countries. In turn, the German army initially relied on heavy artillery systems, which were supposed to crush the enemy's defenses, clearing the way for infantry and cavalry.

It can be said that before the start of the conflict in France, the development of heavy artillery was rather frivolous, if not contemptuous. The calculations of the French command were based on rapid offensive operations, attacks, bayonet strike and quick victory. The French army practically did not prepare for a protracted war and defensive operations.

Based on the chosen strategy of warfare, the French generals relied on light and rapid-fire guns, primarily on the 75-mm cannon, which was affectionately called Mademoiselle soixante quinze (mademoiselle seventy-five). However, the outbreak of the war and its character quickly put everything in its place. By the end of 1914, battles on the Western Front acquired the character of trench warfare. The enemy armies burrowed into the ground and erected more and more fortifications.

Under these conditions, the French began to feverishly build up their heavy artillery, making the main bet on the railway option for placing super-powerful guns. Quite quickly, a whole line of railway artillery systems was created in France, the pinnacle of which was the 520-mm railway howitzer Obusier de 520 modele 1916.

Towards a super-powerful 520mm gun

After a quick victory in the war did not work out, the French military quite quickly switched to ordering more and more advanced and powerful artillery systems, each of which was superior to the previous one. Unlike their allies, the British, the French initially relied on the railway option to deploy heavy artillery.

French field 75-mm gun, model 1897

This option had its advantages. The railway made it possible to bring up and prepare the guns for firing without regard to the state of the road network, muddy roads and other weather conditions. True, a railway track was needed, but there were no special problems with it in Europe, which was quite compact in size. In the absence of a railway, a new path could simply be paved, since the positional nature of hostilities did not interfere with this in any way.

Already in 1915, the French company "Schneider" (this power engineering company still exists today, it has five factories in Russia) developed and presented a whole line of railway artillery installations, which were based on naval guns. In addition to the Schneider company, the companies Batignolles and St. Chamond ". It was a large line of artillery systems with caliber from 164 to 370 mm.

Against this background, the developments of the St. Chamond, whose engineers created one of the most powerful French artillery systems in stories... It was the artillery systems of this company, along with the Schneider company, that gained the greatest fame, and not because of their massiveness, but because of their special power. PR here clearly surpassed common sense, which will already be proved by the Second World War.

At the same time, the 400 mm St. Chamond M1915 / 1916 looked even more or less justified and had a fairly high efficiency. This model combines a large caliber and good technical characteristics. The effectiveness of combat use was also at the level. The very first combat use at the end of October 1916 showed that only two hits in the German-occupied Fort Douaumont near Verdun were enough for the Germans to abandon the entire nearby sector of the front and retreat.

400-mm howitzer St. Chamond M1915 / 1916

The 400mm gun, like many other French heavy artillery systems, grew out of naval guns intended to arm battleships. The barrel of the gun was a shortened version of the old 340 mm M 1887 naval cannon, which was reamed to 400 mm. At the same time, in contrast to the German "Big Bertha", which was a mortar, here it was about an artillery gun with a barrel length of 26,6 caliber (the length of the rifled part is 22,1 caliber).

The gun stood out for its excellent characteristics for those years, sending 650-kg shells at a distance of up to 16 thousand meters. At the same time, the content of explosives in ammunition, which developed a speed of 530 m / s, reached 180 kg. The conveyor installation itself was made according to the "carriage with a cradle" scheme. The mass of the entire installation reached 137 tons, and the preparation of the position took up to two days.

Schneider 520 mm railway howitzer

Despite the impressive results of the use of already created artillery systems, the French military wanted to get even more powerful weapons. The order for two new super-heavy 520 mm railway howitzers was issued to Schneider on January 24, 1916. It took more than a year to create artillery installations of special power. The first of them was assembled by November 11, 1917, the second - by March 7, 1918.

The timing of the creation of artillery installations was seriously influenced by the fact that guns of comparable caliber neither in the army nor on navy at that time it simply was not. For this reason, the 520 mm gun had to be developed from scratch.

A new artillery mount of special power was built in only two copies. Tests of new weapons were carried out in the presence of journalists. The first shooting took place in February-March 1918. The presence of the press and its interest in the novelty were understandable. The French definitely wanted to use the propaganda effect. At the same time, it was planned to inspire their soldiers and demoralize the enemy soldiers.

It is worth noting the fact that during the First World War, Great Britain, which is an ally of Russia and France, also lost sight of heavy artillery. Despite the developed industry and the presence of a powerful fleet with a variety of large-caliber artillery systems, the Vickers 305-mm siege howitzer remained the most powerful installation of the British army during the First World War. She was also supplied to Russia. By 1917, there were at least 8 such howitzers in the TAON group (special heavy artillery).

The largest cannons in history. 520-mm railway howitzer Obusier de 520 modele 1916
520-mm railway howitzer Obusier de 520 modele 1916

Against the background of a 305-mm howitzer, the French 520-mm railway artillery mount looked like a real monster. The new artillery system of the Schneider company was adopted under the designation Obusier de 520 modele 1916.

At the same time, the fate of the installations was unfortunate. First, they were ready for the very end of the First World War. Secondly, one installation was lost during the tests. On July 27, 1918, on the Quiberon Peninsula, during test firing, a shell exploded in the barrel of the first built 520-mm howitzer, the installation was completely destroyed.

The second 520-mm railway howitzer of special power remained the only artillery system of this caliber built in France. She also did not have time to take part in the First World War, and after the completion of test firing from 1919, it was stored first in Le Creusot, and then in a specially built arsenal of heavy railroad artillery in Neuvy Payou. Ammunition, spare barrels and generating substations were also stored there.

Technical features of the 520 mm Obusier de 520 modele 1916 howitzer

The weight of the barrel of a 520-mm howitzer with a length of 15 calibers (11,9 meters) was 44 tons. And the weight of the entire installation together with the railway platform exceeded 263 tons. At the heart of the impressive size of the platform were two paired four-wheeled bogies. The total length of the railway platform with the tool exceeded 30 meters.

The vertical guidance angle of the howitzer of special power ranged from +20 to +60 degrees, the installation was not guided in the horizontal plane. For horizontal guidance, the entire 520-mm installation had to be moved along curved railway lines.

French soldiers in front of a 520-mm projectile

To load the gun barrel, it was necessary to lower it to a horizontal position. The lifting and supply of shells had an electric drive, for power supply of the artillery system, a special electric generator was provided in a separate car (power up to 103 kW). It could not be otherwise, since high-explosive ammunition weighing 1370 or 1420 kg, as well as concrete-piercing shells of a monstrous mass of 1654 kg, were used to fire the howitzer. The gun was loaded separately.

1370-kg light-type projectiles, if they could be called such, developed an initial velocity of up to 500 m / s. Their firing range was up to 17 km. Heavy concrete-piercing 1654-kg ammunition developed a speed of no more than 430 m / s, and their firing range was limited to 14,6 km. The rate of fire of the installation did not exceed 1 shot per 5 minutes.

Preparing artillery positions for the super-powerful howitzer took a long time. It was necessary to strengthen the railway track by laying additional sleepers. Steel beams were also laid on the canvas itself, onto which 7 supports of the railway installation were lowered with the help of screw jacks. Five of these supports were located under the middle part of the railway platform directly under the gun, and one support was located under the balancers of the chassis.

The fate of the 520 mm Schneider railway howitzer

The installation, developed at the very end of the First World War, flashed in the media throughout the 1920s, but its fate was unenviable. She never fired at the enemy either in World War I or during the blitzkrieg of the Germans in France in the spring and summer of 1940. The installation, which retained its combat capability and was not disabled, went to the German army as a trophy.

A 520-mm French railway howitzer captured by the Germans near Leningrad

From France, she went to Leningrad. The Germans used a heavy-duty howitzer, designated 52 cm Haubitze (E) 871 (f), from the end of October 1941. The Germans used the gun that arrived at the front to fire at targets in the vicinity of Leningrad.

True, the period of her stay near Leningrad was short-lived. Already on January 3, 1942, the installation was destroyed as a result of the explosion of a shell in the barrel. The same story happened as with the first built sample. At the same time, the howitzer was not subject to restoration, and in 1944 the remnants of this railway artillery installation were captured by Soviet troops as trophies.
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  1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
    Kote Pan Kokhanka April 4 2021 05: 29
    She also did not have time to take part in the First World War.

    It is corny that they could not deliver to the front line because of the weight.
    However, our railway TM-12 with 305 mm guns also dragged to the Far East with adventures. For the first time, even several tens of kilometers of new power line poles had to be cut off. Envelope did not pass.
    1. YOUR
      YOUR April 4 2021 05: 48
      Especially for you.
      Only 305 pieces of 3-mm railway artillery pieces were produced. After the Soviet-Finnish war, they were installed on the Hanko Peninsula. After ours were forced to leave Hanko, the guns were blown up. The Finns restored them, actually restored them loudly, the guns themselves were destroyed, the Finns, using the platform, installed on them the same type of guns from the battleship Emperor Alexander 3, which the French sold them. After the war, the TM-3-12 platforms were returned by the Finns, they stood in Baltiisk until 1961.
      When you post an outright lie, at least check, do not hope that people cannot read and search for information
      1. bubalik
        bubalik April 4 2021 06: 19
        For the TM-1-12, 305/40-mm barrels were used (also made in England and were used as spare on the battleships of the "Andrew the First-Called" type). The TM-3-12 mounts received 305/52-mm guns, literally lifted from the bottom of the sea, more precisely, from the Empress Maria battleship sunk in Sevastopol.
        On February 27, 1932, the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR in its resolution "On the state and development of defense construction" decided to transfer the 6th battery of TM-1-14 transporters to the Far East, and after production and testing, send TM-2-12 transporters there.

        The 11th battery TM-1-14 was left in the Baltic.

        Six TM-2-12 units were built at the A. Marty Nikolaev Plant. Of these, the 7th and 8th railway artillery batteries were formed, which were sent to the Far East. In the period from July 1, 1938 to January 1, 1939, the TM-3-12 transporters were built. They became part of battery number 9, which soon took part in the Soviet-Finnish war.
        1. Nikolaevich I
          Nikolaevich I April 4 2021 08: 24
          The comments mentioned the TM-2-12 and TM-3-12 installations (305 mm) ... but the TM-1-14 is still 356 mm installations ...
          1. NIKN
            NIKN April 4 2021 10: 33
            The rate of fire of the installation did not exceed 5 rounds per minute.
            Can't it be, apparently at one o'clock?
            1. Blacksmith 55
              Blacksmith 55 April 4 2021 11: 20
              Also something suspicious, 12 sec. for a shot ???
            2. stoqn477
              stoqn477 April 4 2021 14: 23
              It's a monster and 5 rounds per minute !? They probably won't be able to lower the barrel to a horizontal position in a minute.
              1. NIKN
                NIKN April 4 2021 15: 12
                Quote: stoqn477
                It's a monster and 5 rounds per minute !? They probably won't be able to lower the barrel to a horizontal position in a minute.

                The author was mistaken, apparently there at an hour. "Dora" fired 1 shot in 45 minutes, and all large calibers, even our B-4 203 mm howitzer, 1 shot in 2 minutes.
                1. stoqn477
                  stoqn477 April 4 2021 19: 42
                  He was 100% wrong.
      2. Kote Pan Kokhanka
        Kote Pan Kokhanka April 4 2021 11: 42
        Quote: YOUR
        Especially for you.

        I also read Katorin and Shirokorad, from memory I confused them with TM-3-14, but 14 inches, much more than 12! This means that the dimensions and weight are much more significant than the TM-2-12 and TM-3-12.
      3. Undecim
        Undecim April 4 2021 15: 16
        Especially for you.
        Before writing, it would be good to read so as not to write bullshit.
        Judging by your application, you are a master in seeking information. Look for a 2 "Marine Type 12 Conveyor and a 3" Marine Type 12 Conveyor.
        1. YOUR
          YOUR April 5 2021 13: 36
          I found
          Maybe you still have some information, share it. I would be especially grateful if you do without insults.
          1. Undecim
            Undecim April 5 2021 15: 13
            Your search is really bad. I hope I haven't offended you with these?
            1. YOUR
              YOUR April 6 2021 04: 02
              I'll read the book, but can you tell me where it is written that when TM was relocated to the Far East there was a need to cut down the posts along the railway
    2. bubalik
      bubalik April 4 2021 06: 21
      for the first time, even several tens of kilometers of new power line poles had to be cut off. H

      To check the passage of the conveyor, a simulator of the size was made and sent along the selected route. However, the simulator, made in the form of a steel frame with folding "wings", corresponded to the dimensions of 1932, and not to the actual dimensions of the conveyor. As a result, several structures were demolished, built in accordance with the 1896 gauge. And near Vologda, on one of the stretches, half of the power line pillars were demolished, leaving the entire district without light.
    3. 210ox
      210ox April 4 2021 07: 21
      5 rounds per minute ?? !! Can not be.
    4. Thrifty
      Thrifty April 4 2021 07: 29
      7 rounds per minute? For such a hummingbird, the rate of fire is fantastic! !!
  2. UVB
    UVB April 4 2021 07: 19
    The rate of fire of the installation did not exceed 5 rounds per minute.
    Maybe on the contrary, 1 shot in 5 minutes?
  3. The comment was deleted.
  4. Thrifty
    Thrifty April 4 2021 07: 30
    God is in the world! Therefore, the French gun and exploded near Leningrad! am
  5. Nikolaevich I
    Nikolaevich I April 4 2021 08: 46
    Hmmm ...! No wonder they say that history develops in a spiral ...! "Big guns" in the development of increased calibers .... but, about the same, began to happen in the development of MLRS! Not so long ago there was a period when the Smerch with 300-mm shells was considered the ultimate caliber in MLRS ... And then "off we go!" Then in China 370-mm MLRS appear; then in Serbia, 400-mm launchers ... And this is not to mention the Italian 380-mm ... Syrian 360-mm and 500-mm golans (although the latter are difficult to call multiple launch rocket launchers ...). .. Again, China with "multiply charged" rocket launchers with 420-mm and 600-mm tactical missiles ... I would not forget the DPRK with its 600-mm MLRS! Shaw will be far away? How will it all end? request
    1. Blacksmith 55
      Blacksmith 55 April 4 2021 11: 28
      Article title: The biggest guns in history.
      Then we must mention the tsar cannon, caliber 890 mm.
      Although she never fired. Yes, and guns from different centuries.
      1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
        Kote Pan Kokhanka April 4 2021 11: 46
        The meaning and logic of selection for articles is sincerely incomprehensible to me. If we write about the largest caliber, then this is Little David with over 900mm.
      2. Nikolaevich I
        Nikolaevich I April 4 2021 12: 15
        Quote: Blacksmith 55
        Then we must mention the tsar cannon, caliber 890 mm

        Why then did they not immediately mention the 914-mm David? Missiles do not like? Duc, I have a comment about the "tools"! Pliz! bully
  6. Nikolaevich I
    Nikolaevich I April 4 2021 08: 58
    "Eh, Marfusha! Shall we live in sorrow?" What do we need a French 520-mm caliber, and even WW1? In the USSR there were "guns" and larger caliber ... and even after WW2! I mean 560mm RAK (E) and 535mm D-80 ...! If anyone is interested, but he does not know about it, then let him remember the fascist "Sturmtiger" with a 380-mm "gun" on the "base" of the ship's bomb launcher! Here too ... something like that!
  7. CastroRuiz
    CastroRuiz April 4 2021 11: 01
    Da, malo praktichno, no eta moshch! :)
  8. bk0010
    bk0010 April 4 2021 11: 40
    At the same time, the content of explosives in ammunition, which developed a speed of 530 m / s, reached 180 kg.
    Is this not a typo, zero is not superfluous? If not, then this is very cool! 10 times more explosives than naval guns.
  9. Basarev
    Basarev April 4 2021 13: 19
    As you can see, the Russians were the most pragmatic in the railway artillery. Not chasing monstrous calibers, they simply put a cannon from the battle cruiser Izmail on the platform. The rather modest 342 mm was quite enough for counter-battery firing, with which the installations successfully coped with the entire war.
    1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
      Kote Pan Kokhanka April 4 2021 14: 37
      Probably still 356mm, not 342.
    2. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA April 5 2021 13: 10
      Quote: Basarev
      As you can see, the Russians were the most pragmatic in the railway artillery. Not chasing monstrous calibers, they simply put a cannon from the battle cruiser Ishmael on the platform.

      So TM-1-14 is a system for coastal defense, not for a land front. They were made in all countries like a blueprint: the barrel of naval or coastal artillery is taken, placed on a multi-axle conveyor, a railway network with prepared positions is being built - that's it, the mobile coastal defense system is ready.

      And for the land front and for the army in the USSR, they developed their own system - the TG-1 (500-mm howitzer). But they did not have time.
      By the beginning of World War II, only one swinging part of the TG-1 and one universal TPG transporter were ready. Such a conveyor had a greatly simplified design and was intended only for testing guns.